Steinberg, 'External FX' is - unreasonably - dysfunctional and uninspiring

Everyday, I get irked by this. Every day.

External FX connections are always being broken, they can’t share with inputs and outputs connections. This makes it incredibly difficult to do quick analog work on the fly. If you are only working with 16 channels of AD/DA it is very problematic.

Please fix this.

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Yeah, I’m not a fan of how Cubase reserves input and output channels. On my interface, I’m running a patchbay and input 5+6 might belong to a hardware synth, or if not in use could very well be needed for the return on a stereo bus compressor. Cubase shouldn’t care or start unassigning inputs and outputs. Let me use any Chantel of I/O as needed.

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You can make this more workable if what you have configured inside Cubase matches what is really occurring in your hardware. You don’t really have a reverb, compressor, or other effect connected to your audio interface. What is really sitting on the I/O of you audio interface is a patchbay (or perhaps just some jacks :frowning: ). That is what you want to create a device for that can be used as an fx insert in the MixConsole. That is the device you want to have input & output channels permanently assigned to. And it is gonna be a dumb device 'cause it really doesn’t do much.

However, say you have created (or plan to create) a MIDI Device that has all the patches for your reverb and maybe even a really nice device panel with knobs you can change settings on the reverb. You don’t want to loose that capability and you don’t need to. Take that midi device and create a 2nd External FX (or Instrument see below*) except don’t assign anything to its audio In or Out (so now it is not hogging any audio I/O) this device can now be used to control your reverb via midi while the audio will go through your patchbay device. Repeat as needed for your other FX gear.

*For these devices used to control the hardware it probably works better to create them as External Instruments rather than External FX because you can then easily see the outboard equipment’s presets.

Granted this is an extra hoop to jump through but the intention of External FX and Instruments is to create a single entity that integrates the MIDI control of a device with its audio I/O. By swapping out gear you are basically making that integration impossible (not really, but that’s another post) and to resolve this situation you need to separate the audio and midi control elements of your external FX and control them independently in Cubase.

I’m totally lost on what you are trying to explain here.

With a 16 channel interface, I want to record a band using all 16 channels, then do some creative processing on some outboard equipment of which some of those 16 channels will be needed - both outputs and inputs and then after that processing. I want to commence recording on those 16 channels.

There is no way for me to do this without breaking connections. And to make matters worse, the External FX, have to be set 1 by 1. Each input and each output for each piece of hardware. There are no External FX presets to quickly recall what they were connected to before I broke the connections.

My previous post is the quick(ish) and dirty solution and pretty much what I’d do (until I got sick of it and did this instead).

However if you have the time and really want to impress Cubase nerds there is a much more elegant solution.

Instead of creating one device for your reverb, another for a compressor, and a third one for the EQ, etc. you can think of them all as one meta-device that does reverb, compression & EQ (although only the physical equipment connected to the audio I/O). Nothing in External devices prohibits you from sending control signals to multiple physical devices. You can arrange your presets into folders, each dedicated to one physical device. And you can create Device Panels that have knobs to control your reverb sitting right next to the compressor’s controls. If you take this approach you’d want to really think about which channels would control what physical hardware and pay close attention to control signal routing. You’d also want them all using the same Cubase MIDI port.

FYI either of these 2 approaches would let you create effect chains with multiple devices all under Cubase control.

At least Steinberg could allow for creating custom presets at the external effects tab (as there are custom presets for inputs & outputs) so whenever for some reason the connections break, they could recall easily instead of setting them again one by one.

Ahh, if you don’t have any audio I/O ports that you can dedicate for use with an external device then you should not use External FX or Instruments at all. Their purpose in life is to be able to set up your external equipment and then not have to mess with it again which includes having its own dedicated audio connections, just like your monitor speakers.

Basically you are describing a situation where you have a need for more I/O than you currently own. As long as that is the situation you are going to be stuck reconfiguring stuff back and forth. External Devices are designed to solve a different problem than limited I/O availability.

If you aren’t using the External FX to control your hardware, then the only reason to create an External FX is so you can use it as an Insert. But, you don’t have any I/O to spare to create an External FX. Which means you cannot access your hardware processors using Inserts. Instead you will need to use the Channel Sends to route audio to your hardware and have it return via your normal inputs used for regular audio. None of this needs to have any dedicated I/O assignments.

But External Devices are not going to work in your situation.

This is what I am complaining about.

There’s other reasons for using external FX - delay compensation. Quick Send/Return gainstaging.

It’s quicker and easier to use External FX in many situations. But the way it is set up is annoying.

All they have to do is allow the AD/DA inputs/Outputs to be split between input/out connections and External FX connections, and when both are being used, colour the text differently in the connections window and in the inspector/channel input/output selection to let me know I could potentially be combining to signals by mistake if I’m not being mindful.

I know it is on the big list of things to improve up on.
There has been a lot of focus on the GUI, that I guess has to do with Nuage and keeping Yamaha happy.
I hope to see some rewrite of how external FX and instruments are handled, now that Cubase almost has arrived in the HiDPI age.

It definitely does not represent how most people are working today… everyone from hobby to top pros…

Yeah I get that’s what you are complaining about. And who knows, maybe the next release will resolve this limitation. Or maybe it won’t. I’m just trying to point out approaches you can take in Cubase right now, not after some hoped for update, to try and minimize the impact of the current design on your workflow.

Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. In this case: trying to use non-latency compensated external inserts via send/returns rather than setting up External FX in Cubase. I’ve got 6 channels of hardware compression, not to mention a few things that can be run in-line like reamp boxes, line inputs of preamps, etc. My interface has 8 analog outs and ins. As a result, I’ve got a patchbay to patch things in as needed. What I patch in may vary from mix to mix, project to project, etc. In Studio One, it’s no hassle at all. I load up Pipeline, select my Send Channel in the plugin, Select the return channel in the plugin, and can use as many of these as I’ve got I/O for without having to worry about breaking existing assignments. I get Cubase wasn’t designed to work that way with External effects, but I think the whole point of this thread is that it shouldn’t be quite so difficult in Cubase. I can’t tell if Cubase was designed for studios with 96 channels of IO, or if they just never contemplated the existence of patch bays, but the current implementation is lacking.

That said, the thread probably belongs in the Feature Requests forum honestly.

It’s already in the feature request, it needs to be generally discussed all the time though how, this design and workflow is terrible for how - most - studios are designed today.

When Cubase audio was introduced there probably weren’t many small studio formats that would be using a system that would require something like external fx… and I’m pretty sure Steinberg has never changed it sits its introduction. So it was designed for 96 channel studios.

Hey, I’m with you 100%. I find this annoying as hell. They just need to take the “Studio One/Pipeline” approach of having a generic “External FX” plugin, then within each instance of that plugin, allow users to assign any I/O channel they want for the returns/sends, without “breaking connections.” Sure, maybe you reserve any channels used for the Control Room so someone doesn’t try using their monitor or headphone outputs as a send, but other than that, I say make the other channelsl available. This way, I could use as many External Effects as I need to in a project, routed however I please.


Yes thank you… in this day of eurorack modular, 500 series, high-end external reverbs… eventide h9000… high end summing boxes… most studios/producers have under 16 channels today…

we need better protocol here!



Interesting thread, I agree with that is in here